Tuesday, March 06, 2007

More Spinning, No Yoga

Last post, there were two comments regarding spinning for weaving. It's a big subject, but I'll answer from my little corner of the weaving world.

Anne asked the easier question: Do you have a favorite "coarse" wool breed for warp? And do you prefer singles over plied? Or does it depend on the application?

Hands down first choice for rug warps: Lincoln wool. Other longwools will do: Leicester, Wensleydale, even Romney. But I prefer Lincoln, bought as fleece, then processed into pindrafted rovings. I always ply, usually 3 ply for warps. All the yarns, commercial and handpsun, mentioned as warp yarn in the last post were 3 ply.

Bibliotecaria (!) asked *what do you look for in spinning a yarn suitable for weaving? Although that may be too broad a question.*

In the context about which I was posting, warp yarns, I look for very tight twist in the spin and ply. These are yarns which will have to withstand abrasion in the weaving process, and the fabrics they produce need to be durable too: bands, which become handles for bags, mostly, in my world, get lots of wear and tear. Rug warps get a lot of abuse in the making, not so much in the using, since they are protected (covered) by the weft.

Twist is a funny thing, more adds durability and abrasion resistance, up to a point. Less, and you can have a weak yarn, which either pills in the wearing/use, or actually doesn't stand up to the making process.

I think I am out of step with current use/yarn design: I like almost all my yarns, whether they be for weaving or knitting, to be spun fine, with lots of twist. I ply up to the size I want, again, whether for weaving or knitting. I think of these yarns as *traditional* in that indigenous or ancestral cultures, who spun and wove for everyday use, not for pleasure so much, made yarns more like these. Today, we see lots of soft spun, sometimes even soft spun singles, used in weaving and knitting. Without felting, these yarns just are not as durable as tightly twisted firmly plied yarns.

For resources, look at the yarns mentioned in Gladys Thompson's Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys and Arans, or Mary Wright's Cornish Guernseys and Knit-frocks. The yarns used in this type of knitting are described as worsted 5 ply, knit up at a gauge of 8 to 9 stitches to the inch, on US 1's, 2's, or 3's. That is fine yarn, we'd say *sport weight*, tightly spun and plied, for durability.

For weaving, the best yarn reference for traditional garments I have found is Else Ostergard's Woven Into the Earth, wherein she dissects the fabrics, and the yarns: 2 ply yarns spun at a 45 degree angle, plied at a 35-40 degree angle, and then sett and beat as close as 30 ends per inch, more commonly at 20 ends per inch, and picks per inch. Those are fine yarns, and they make up into fabrics that can be cut and tailored, and worn everyday, as durable working garments.

How durable does a yarn or garment need to be? Well, I guess that depends on the product: I like things that I make to last. I do not make trendy things for the most part, but classic sweaters, shawls, blankets, scarves, etc. I wear them everyday, and just yesterday put on a woven shirt I made in 1995 (I guess I could make some new clothes, eh?).

How about softness? Well, for that I depend on the fiber. We have at our disposal almost every fiber known to man, and a few new ones never before imagined. If I want something soft, I use a fiber suitable, like silk, but I still spin with plenty of twist and ply the yarn.

I have several silk scarves, some 12 to 15 years old. I use them often. I don't treat them as delicate, because they are not. They are still shiny and firm, because the yarn had plenty of twist, making it durable. But they are as soft as, well, silk.

Here is the current shawl:

hs silk shawl

And a close up of the yarn and weave structure (hah! it's plain weave, but sett close, so it's a warp-dominant plain weave):

hs silk shawl2

hs silk shawl3

Anyway, you can see the yarns are close together, and rub on each other every time the shed is changed. They would abrade in the weaving, if it weren't for the tight twist. This is spun silk, always a little lesser quality than reeled silk, and in order to approximate the reeled silk look, I need to make the yarns so they fuzz as little as possible. Spin tight, ply tight, ply up if you want a larger yarn.

So that's my mantra: spin fine and ply tight. The quality of the fiber determines how coarse, or how fine, the garment/object will be. And sheesh, a diatribe. I can go on and on (obviously), but I will stop myself. I hope I've given you a picture of why I do what I do.

In other news, I received this yesterday:

Anne's fiber

A box of handyed shetland rovings from Anne :). The little bags are 2 oz. each and spin up nicely to fill a bobbin. I started the usual dreaming of *what this will be*: a knitted shawl (surprise, eh?) and decided to dye up some wool to ply with it. I hunted through the bins and found some grey wool roving, which I am dyeing right now. It was marked Belinda and Rambo, (sheep I once knew) 1987.

Hmph. No wool here shall be spun before its time.


Blogger dragon knitter said...

glad to know i'm not the only one who spins like that. there's a lady over in massachusetts (don't q uote me) whos been using the "spinning for softness & speed" method, and those yarns look like they'd fall apart (almost lopi-like). i don't care for that myself. of course, i'm also treadle-impaired (i can't go slow). everybody seems to like my yarns, though!

12:10 PM  
Blogger claudia said...

Argh! That last line is from an old commercial, but I just can't remember what wasn't supposed to __ before its time. Was it a Gallo commercial??



But, love the shawl on the loom.

8:03 PM  
Blogger judy said...

Great post, thanks. As always, I am happy to find that my umm.... inventory, is timeless. Somehow, vintage doesn't seem the right term when it comes to wool.

8:14 AM  
Blogger bibliotecaria said...

Thank you. That's the kind of info I'm looking for. As it happens, it is more or less what I was expecting, but no one had ever expressed it that way before that I had found.

Actually, I like tightly spun stuff as well. On the Abby's Yarns blog, she also has talked a little about spinning for weaving and liking that tight-spun texture. Perhaps it is a reflection of the fact that I prefer classic, traditional styles for a lot of my clothes. I want them to "take a lickin' and keep on tickin'". (Ad quotes continue.) And it gives me a little more confidence in my quest to spin sock yarn that is soft and durable. Not exactly the same thing as weaving yarn, but facing some of the same abrasion problems. (I wonder if I could spin some extra tight for the sock bottom, but softer for the rest of the it?)

6:07 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I am so glad to know that I am not the only one in the universe to have well aged fiber. I should know that by now but it is always nice to have an affirmation isn't it?

Yes Sara the cut pile was to be a gift but the person who was to get it gave her mother allot to deal with through the following years and despite best intentions "life got in the way" (Lennon).

So it is on the list and will be hopefully a June birthday gift for the same adult child or if there are bumps in the road at least Christmas.

If anyone has the chance to take your class on cut pile do it! Wonderful art-love it.

7:12 PM  
Blogger Deanna said...

I would *love* to hear a panel discussion with you and Deb Menz. I think we're closest to the truth when we find two opposites that are both true. :-)

9:06 AM  
Blogger Birdsong said...

Love that last comment! I am not a bit surprised to find that you got some RED wool from Anne... I went for bunny blend myself. Happy Spinning... I will be at that B&B over the weekend with the quilters, but spindling, and will find out about a possible retreat - haven't forgotten.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

I like extra twist. You make me feel so much better. I always feel like I don't know what I'm going, but I'm doing what I like and I have no rationale for it - phew.

8:28 PM  
Blogger Lene said...

I don't think 1987 is that far away... Seems like yesterday.

Thank you for an informative post.

4:20 AM  
Blogger Deborah Robson said...

Hi, Sara: Always interesting, but special thanks for the Woven into the Earth tip. I hadn't encountered that book. Have Googled. Will order. Wow. Writing from the road on a laptop whose battery has been giving "low power" warnings for half an hour. Had to see if I can get this comment posted, though. Many thanks. Deb

11:35 AM  

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